In December 2019, private investigator Stuart Page left his cell phone at home and boarded a series of trains to a boutique hotel nestled in the Swiss mountains, where he would meet a British lawyer. Neil Gerrard.
They did not reunite over the winter break, but, according to Page, to rehearse a mock trial prepared an elaborate fictional story intended to conceal a hacking operation from the Supreme Court.
The pair have been subpoenaed to give evidence in connection with allegations that they relied on hacked documents to help a Middle Eastern customer win a fraud case.
Those accusations have resurfaced in considerable proportion now, as Page revealed Gerrard in an explosive affidavit filed in US court last week, telling the story of burning phones, transferring hotels. the secrecy and cover-ups involved in one of the world’s most powerful law firms.
The affidavit, seen by the Financial Times, is the latest in a flurry of allegations, including torture and human rights abuses, issued to Gerrard in connection with his work in the Middle East, All were denied by him.
Gerrard, who retired in 2020, and Dechert, the international law firm he joined in 2011, are now battling lawsuits that amount to some of the most serious claims ever brought against attorney or company.
Hacked Emails and Business Transactions in the Middle East
Gerrard, a former police officer who is one of the City of London’s leading litigants, has joined Dechert in a salary arrangement worth around $3 million a year to co-lead the antiquated criminal operation. its white alcohol.
He and Page worked together for a tiny United Arab Emirates named Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) to investigate its sovereign wealth fund’s former chief executive, Khater Massaad, its ruler. was suspected of embezzlement, and who was subsequently convicted. Gerrard was hired in 2014 and Page a year later, according to his affidavit.
In 2007, RAK’s investment fund agreed to help Kansas-based aviation magnate, Farhad Azima, develop a pilot training camp that closed a few years later and sell a hotel in Georgia.
Transactions were difficult, and his relationship with Massaad put Azima in the spotlight for Gerrard and Page.
In 2016, the Emirati fund, Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority (RAKIA), sued Azima for £3.7 million for alleged misrepresentation in High Court in London about the pilot school and breach of contract on hotel agreement.
Where much of RAKIA’s success against Azima was based on his cache of hacked emails, which emerged online in 2016 as part of an operation known as “hacking and dumping”. In witness testimony to RAKIA, Page and Gerrard claimed they were innocent of the attack by chance through an Israeli journalist named Majdi Halabi, who also gave evidence.
The judge said there was “no dispute” that RAKIA’s case against Azima was based on evidence obtained through hacking, but allowed evidence to be used. Azima was found liable for fraud and bribery in 2020 and ordered to pay more than $4 million. He was subsequently retried claiming he was attacked by RAKIA, which is pending.
Last week, Page said his and Gerrard’s testimony about the emails was a lie. He asserted in the affidavit that the Azima documents came from Amit Forlit, a former Israeli intelligence officer who was paid by Page to provide the information. According to Page’s affidavit, Forlit agents used intelligence methods including “hacking techniques”. Forlit did not respond to a request for comment.
The affidavit was filed in a Manhattan court as part of Azima’s effort to locate documents from an RAKIA affiliate in the US.
It claims that Gerrard not only knew about the origin of Azima’s hacked data, but also staged an elaborate cover story to conceal its origin so it could be used as evidence to secure victory in the Supreme Court for RAKIA.
A mock trial in a Swiss hotel
In December 2019, weeks before the Azima trial began, Page traveled to Switzerland to meet Gerrard, Halabi and Forlit. Page said in his affidavit that he sought to “avoid detection” – witnesses in UK trials must not discuss their evidence and it is illegal to lie in court.
At the hotel, Gerrard led a mock trial, posing as judge and cross-judge, under oath, and the team employed a private chef and wine cellar.
A month later, Gerrard will tell the Supreme Court that the view that he relied on hacked data to build a case against Azima was “Absurdity”.
Azima has now sued Dechert and Gerrard, adding them as defendants in his hack, meaning they will face a Supreme Court trial in 2023 and could be forced to pay damages. damage if you lose.
In a statement, Dechert said: “We have no comment on the proceedings other than that we are defending the claims.”
Page will no longer face trial. The case against him was terminated following his updated statement.
Unusual cell phone use
Dechert and Gerrard are also bracing for the imminent outcome of a claim made by former client ENRC, part of an international mining consortium, that could lead to a punitive financial settlement .
The ENRC has accused Gerrard of leaking confidential information about it to the press and of colluding with the UK’s Serious Fraud Office to improperly expand an investigation. Dechert and Gerrard deny those allegations and in the defense filing say that Gerrard discovered evidence of fraud, corruption and sanctions violations in connection with certain mining syndicate activities and was only do your job.
The cases in common are exposing ways in which Gerrard may have worked, including unusual behavior such as the former lawyer’s heavy use of cell phones, all brought up by Dechert.
Documents made public in a case involving former legal counsel to the ruler of the RAK, Karam Al Sadeq, reveal that Gerrard has used 26 separate mobile devices since 2012, six of them. that was lost and one of them was reported stolen.
Al Sadeq has accused Gerrard and other Dechert partners of being responsible for his torture and human rights abuses. In a defense filed last year, the company denied that lawyers had ever tortured Al Sadeq or been responsible for any other illegal acts against him.
Gerrard and Dechert, who have already paid the former attorney’s legal bills, now face two years of defending themselves in costly lawsuits that threaten to prove financially and to damage reputations both. two.